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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #140 on: November 12, 2018, 05:04:35 pm »
Hi Maria and Alistair

Your trip and report are remarkably inspiring. One always tends to think a tour of this nature needs a great big 1200 or similar.

I am loving your writing. Excuse the ignorance but have you published a book about your travels?

Cheers for now. Hedley

Hi Hedley, thanks so much for the compliments! Considering that english is not my 1st (or even 2d!)  language I am very happy when people enjoy reading my reports!

For the bikes, well I tried travelling on a heavy bike. My first overland trip was on a BMW 650GS back in 2007. We spent a year exploring south America and it was not fun. I much prefer a small and light bike. To use a behemoth is fine if you are tall and strong and exceptional at off road riding. That is not me  ;D. (I never wrote a RR of the South America trip. Maybe one day... it could be fun).

I never considered writing a book. I enjoy writing my Ride Reports. I already published 2 RR about my 2 long trips around Russia, central Asia/ Mongolia in 2014 and 2016 (in another forum). It's enough. I enjoy writing, and keeping all this data in forums is fun, even for me, years later.

When all is done and dusted all that is left are my memories of  the events. By entrusting my failing memory to forums, I know I will not forget!
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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #141 on: November 12, 2018, 05:07:31 pm »
Wicked pommy sense of humour Maria !!
 Fantastic ride report and proof you don't need an expensive heavy behemoth to do a long trip like yours.
Keep us entertained.
Thanks Cuzzy.

True,  you don't need a massive bike and a budget to match, to travel like that. Just a bike you are comfortable with and easy to maintain, and a strong sense of humour! The things that go wrong or turn out not as you expected, are usually the things that will make fun stories later on!  :biggrin:

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #142 on: November 12, 2018, 05:12:28 pm »
Alistair laughed at me because I was scared of the lions. He never seems to sleep  ::). It was 3am! 

Anyway, I did not know where the lions were. We were, after all, camping in a private game reserve. They had lions. And the official campsite, I found out later, was fenced and we were not allowed to walk out!

Anyhow, after careful exit from the tent and a watch around (it was full moon and it was like having a giant spotlight in the sky) I ran for the loos and managed my little expedition safely.

We were up at 5am to be ready for the drive into the park. It was absolutely freezing. I put all my layers on as well as my waterproof insert jacket.

We were told the car would pick us up at 6am.

The car actually came into Onguma at 7, and then it took forever to pick up 2 other tourists. They were taking their time having breakfast! Our breakfast was a cup of coffee, and the share of half a stale bread roll with peanut butter!

Finally by 7:30 we got on the car. By then we were frozen! The driver handed us a thick poncho, fleeced inside and waterproof outside. We needed it, as the safari car was open on all sides.

We paid the guard for our night camping and left, leaving our camp packed, except for the tent and all our motorcycle gear inside.

We spent all morning driving with a guide around the national park of Etosha. We saw plenty: lots of springbok, impalas, kudus and other antelopes, giraffes, many elephants, ostriches, zebras, a black rhino, and what I  really wanted to see, a lion! A magnificent lion!

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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #143 on: November 12, 2018, 05:15:14 pm »

Later on, we asked the driver to stop at the park official shop, as we though we could buy some food there and we could not get there with the bikes.

We paid the driver in cash for our drive. (once again I doubt that the Lodge will ever get a sniff of that cash!  :biggrin:). We were left with very little cash!
At our return, there were some spots available in the campsite, so we moved there early afternoon. We had a nice spot with our own toilet, shower room, sink, kitchen area etc… really nice.

As it was finally very hot, I washed some clothes, as my riding top did not smell its best!

We then had a nice hot shower and some late lunch from the bar (just toasted cheese and tomato sandwich) and two nice cold beers!

Once all the chores were done, we went to the swimming pool and lied in a sun lounger, trying to get a tan. The water was too cold to swim; it was not that hot around.

It had been a very tiring day, mainly because of the intense cold in the safari car.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #144 on: November 12, 2018, 05:21:28 pm »
Day 34 – Namibia, Grootfontein – Sunday 1st July – 170 kms

I slept like a log, with my (now clean and smelling nice!) thermal shirt and wool socks on. The night, as usual, was very cold. We emerged around 7:30. We were not in any rush.

Our next destination was Grootfontein, only 170kms away. We were planning to stay there 2 nights to do some research on the next leg of our trip, do an oil change and get some provisions.

We left the campsite around 9:30am after a coffee and some bread with peanut butter. Then we rode!

We stopped on the way to buy some fuel and met there a mad polish lad on a big BMW800. He had ridden from Poland all the way to this fuel pump, along the west coast of Africa,  in 2 months! I think my jaw dropped to the floor.  :tongue9:

He said “I like to ride”. He certainly must! He was planning to be in Cape Town in 2 days to pick up his girl friend at the airport (and he did). My jaw dropped, once again, to the floor!  :eek:
We arrived at Grootfontein rather early. The backpacker place that we had in mind was empty. There was no one around. We rang the bell, banged on the metal gate, waited, but nobody came. After all, it was Sunday.
We eventually found another place with a nice café/restaurant onsite, and we got settled. Everything was closed but Alistair went to have a walk around town while I worked on the blog or shilled out.

He found a kind of motorcycle shop (more like quad bikes stuff). Maybe we could find motorcycle oil. We decided to get there the next morning after the (included) breakfast.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #145 on: November 12, 2018, 05:24:00 pm »
Day 35 – Namibia, Grootfontein (Monday 2d July)

The previous day, Alistair found a motorcycle / quad bikes workshop in town, but it was closed (as it was Sunday).

So in the morning, after eating our B&B’s massive breakfast (cereals, boerewors sausages, bacon, toasts, 2 eggs) we walked there. The town was pleasant, clean with wide streets and avenues, and low rise buildings. It reminded me of American towns on the layout and wide avenues.

We had a chat with the business owner, Johan, who invited us to do the oil change in his premises. Alistair talked mechanic stuff with the owner. He was worried about his clutch, as it slipped a bit.

Usually, we always (well, Alistair!) put specific motorcycle engine oil on our bikes. Sounds logical. But often, in our trips, it has often been very difficult to find any.

Johan had motorcycle oil, but he uses multi grade car oil in all his bikes, including his shiny BMW 1200 adventure. He said car oil is good quality, as long as we use a good brand. It is also much cheaper and easier to find. So it was good to know, for next time we needed to change the oil!

After 5,000 kms, the oil from our bikes was black with dirt. We were told the fuel here was probably more “dirty” than in Europe and we should change it more often. Although our bikes manuals said we should change the oil every 10,000 miles, Johan told us we should do it much more often. It is cheaper to change the oil than something in the engine!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #146 on: November 12, 2018, 05:26:16 pm »

After that, we did some shopping. Alistair got himself a hoody at the local PEP store,  as it was so cold, and we got some food from the supermarket, for the next leg of our trip. Our staple food while camping was peanut butter and bread for breakfast, with coffee, and tins of curried mix vegs, tin of baked beans, bread, bags of instant noodles, salted peanuts and biscuits. All of this was small and easy to transport in a roll bag, strapped at the back of my bike, on top of the big Ortlieb bag.

Talking of my Ortlieb bag, one of the straps had broken days in the trip. Quite disappointing considering the bag was new!

When we were riding we did not usually bother with lunch. Dried nuts or peanuts were found everywhere and were filling.

In the evening we had dinner at the B&B’s restaurant and watched some football game (it was still the world cup) with a glass of red wine! As you can see, we were having a hard life!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #147 on: November 12, 2018, 05:30:53 pm »
Day 36 and 37 – Namibia, Kaisosi river lodge campsite – 280kms - Tuesday 3rd July / weds 4th July

The night was freezing cold and we had added all the extra blankets to our quilt. There was never any heating in houses here, from what we had seen.

We left Grootfontein around 10am. We did not have that far to go, and it was all easy tarmac. I had booked a camping spot at a lodge by the edge of river Kovango. The river is the border between Namibia and Angola. After the debacle with Onguma lodge, I was rather keen to ensure a spot. I booked 2 nights there as the following campsite I had in mind was full until then. I had also ensured a booking there for few days later. I was starting to be rather organized! After all, it was now full swing holiday season in Europe and could not presume it would be easy to find a camping spot.   

The only problem on the road was the cold. It was always sunny with big blue sky, but, that morning in particular, it was freezing. I put all my layers on and even like that I suffered with the cold.

Eventually, by early afternoon, we arrived at Rundu. On the way we passed many traditional villages, with round huts and a round wood fence made of standing sticks side by side. There were lots of cows, donkeys and goats grazing by the side of the road.

By mid day, as we passed all those traditional villages, kids, still in their school uniform, got all excited to see our bikes and waved or ran toward us. To start with, I waved back, but I worried that some kids could get too excited and run too close to the bikes, causing an accident. So I decided not to wave and ignore then instead.

In Central Asia, some bikers started the trend of doing a High Five to kids, while riding. As a result, groups of kids now run practically in front of the bikes, even when riding fast. That made me very nervous over there.

The first bike (usually Alistair) would avoid the kids, but by the time I arrived, the kids were all over the road, trying to force me to stop and high five them with my right hand! I hope Namibia will not turn that way. If a biker has an accident because of kids doing this, and a local kid gets even slightly bruised, it could end up badly for the biker.

After a stop for fuel, we followed the GPS to the lodge. The way was via a sort of street with yet more deep sand for about a mile. And with heavy traffic: cars, vans and trucks! At some point I started digging my back wheel in deep sand, but I eventually (proudly!) managed to get myself out off the hole and move on.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #148 on: November 12, 2018, 05:37:16 pm »

The grounds of the lodge were very pleasant. As usual for lodges, our camping spot had its own private small shower/ toilet block. The assistant showed us a site that had a concrete table and benches, after I asked for this, as we carry no chairs. This makes a big difference for me, as sitting in the cold ground is not great, and hurt my knees! After pitching the tent, we went for a walk.

They had the usual facilities, a curio shop with carved things and stuff to sell, a bar, a restaurant, a large wood terrace over the river, chalets for the high paying guests, overlooking also the river, and a very large room with 2 big TVs. So we could watch the football.

The night was very cold, even sleeping with layers. Our sleeping bags are goose down and usually very warm. We bought them in Buenos Aires, back in 2007, during our motorcycling year around South America. My BMW F650GS had been stolen in Brazil, and with it, most of the camping gear. We replaced the sleeping mats and sleeping bags in Buenos Aires. But even the top quality goose down was not enough to keep us warm that night! We were told it was snowing in the Cape, and the freezing wind was blowing from there!

For those anxious about the stolen bike, the police found it few days later and made an arrest. We had a tough time though and since then we always lock our bikes together with a sturdy chain. 

On the other side of the river: Angola.

The next day we lazed around and got to know our neighbours in the campsite next to us. They were three couples from South Africa on big 4×4 cars with roof tents and all the luxury they could carry. Their Braii looked epic!

Offline Oubones

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #149 on: November 12, 2018, 06:13:37 pm »
Still traveling along nicely. :thumleft:
I hope they invited you to share their braai with them?
Thank you for all the interesting and practical tips you give us here as to camping spots etc.
Dakar 650
SR 500

Offline shark_za

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #150 on: November 13, 2018, 08:10:58 am »
We were told the fuel here was probably more “dirty” than in Europe and we should change it more often.
Fuel quality has nothing to do with your oil color...  Changing oil often is a great idea though.

Offline eSKaPe

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #151 on: November 13, 2018, 01:43:10 pm »
Enjoying the read and the pics, keep it coming Maria41
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt' John Muir


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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #152 on: November 13, 2018, 02:30:53 pm »
Good RR. Well done!
Ride it like you stole it!

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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #153 on: November 13, 2018, 05:12:55 pm »

Day 38 – Namibia, Shametu lodge (near Divundu) Thursday 5th July – 230kms

We packed up very early. The night was still freezing cold.

We stopped at the local supermarket in town for some supplies to last the 3 days we planned to spend in Shametu Lodge, at the start of the Caprivi Strip.

If you wonder what we eat while camping, here is our usual dinner:

Washed down with some excellent South African wine!

Lodges are usually in the middle of nowhere. They don’t have a shop, or if they do, they don’t stock much. Lodge’s guests are in full board, and campers usually bring everything with them in their massive cars and trailers. South Africans travel in style! Those trailers have a full-integrated kitchen and fridge as well as enough food to last a nuclear winter!  :patch:

In the car park of the supermarket, as we got ready to go, a woman and an old guy came to tell us to watch for a white car. They warned us that the people in the white car might try to follow us. No doubt those guys in the White car were the local delinquents! As usual there were lots of people hanging around, or sitting in their cars. We thanked the couple and went.

I kept an eye on my mirrors but did not see anyone following us, which was a relief!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #154 on: November 13, 2018, 05:14:36 pm »
The road followed the river Kovango, which is the border between Angola and Namibia. We passed many traditional villages, built with wooden huts and thatched roofs, with a round fence around them. As usual there were lots of cows and donkeys and goats roaming freely around.

We finally arrived at Divundu by early afternoon. We bought fuel in the village. By the supermarket/fuel station, many tourists in big 4×4, with the usual flat packed tent in the roof, were stopping to buy supplies. The place was busy. It was near the border with Botswana and on the way to Zambia.

We found the turn off to the lodge. Once again, there was about a mile of deep sand. I made a mistake and quickly dropped the bike! I really don’t enjoy riding in deep sand. Sometimes I get it and skip over it using speed, and sometimes I just can’t do it! It is as much skill as confidence. It is a very big leap of faith, to stand on the foot pegs and open the throttle and accelerate over a long section of sand. Sometimes, I can do it, and sometimes, I chicken out!

The lodge was lovely with great grounds. Our camping spot was shaded and enormous. It had a large kitchen area, under a thatched roof, with a big worktop and a big aluminium kitchen sink.

Then another wood building was the toilet and shower room. The place was dark inside, the light bulb very weak, but it was fine.

Our private toilet/shower:

And the kitchen section:

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #155 on: November 13, 2018, 05:15:04 pm »

I asked the manager at the desk if we could borrow a couple of chairs or some benches to sit. She kindly got some staff to bring us a couple of camping chairs.

In the evening we cooked our usual tin of vegs with a bag of noodles and spent the evening lounging in the various sofas and areas.

The thatched roof of the main building had an owl and it had 2 or 3 little chicks nesting in the ceiling. They used the big wide beams to nest there. As night fell, the mother owl would fly out through the big pen windows and hunt and bring back food for its chicks. They made quite a noise when they were hungry those little chicks.

The owner explained that despite the mess they could cause (i.e. pooing on the floor of what was the big main lounge) it was worth having these owls there. They eat mice, which means there is less risk of snakes around, as snakes are also after mice.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #156 on: November 13, 2018, 05:18:28 pm »
Day 39 and 40 and – Namibia, Shametu lodge – sat / Sunday 6th and 7th July – 0kms

We booked a river cruise for the afternoon. We saw hippos and crocs and lots of birds.

We also saw the Pupa falls. They were more like rapids than waterfalls.

Hippos out of the water as it seems the water was too cold for them. Spot the baby one!

I took the opportunity, with the massive kitchen and big sink, to make a big wash, including my motorcycle suit. I gave the zips on my gear a good brushing to remove all the dirt, until the zips worked fine again. The weather was still fairly cool and surprisingly cloudy. We had not had any clouds since we left South Africa!

With the WiFi working occasionally, near the reception desk, I did some research for the next leg of our trip. I found a couple of blogs detailing the border crossing between Zambia and Namibia.

Money (local currency) is always a problem when crossing borders. Can we pay fees and costs with USD? Or do we need local currency? Is there an ATM machine at the border? Or do we need to deal with dodgy moneychangers?  Beyond the border, can we pay stuff with a credit card or where is the nearest ATM machine? All that has to be planned a bit in advance. Well,I like to plan it if I can! I need to know how long we can go with cash, USD, fuel etc… In the past, we have been left in a bit of a pickle because of that.

I remember when crossing from Peru to Bolivia, back in 2007, we only had USD once in Bolivia. We stopped in Tiahuanaco to visit the ruins. There was nowhere to change our USD and we could not pay with them for accommodation or anything. Eventually a woman changed us 10 USD, which was enough for accommodation. I can't remember what we did to visit the ruins. I think we probably paid with USD! Then rode to La Paz where we were able to get local cash. We also had that problem entering Peru through an obscure little border post, as we took a 'shortcut' from Ecuador and ended up in the arse end of nowhere!  :o

So I like to plan when I can!

Anyway, according to some blogs, there was a bank and an ATM machine at the border, on the Zambian side, so we did not need to use moneychanger touts.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #157 on: November 13, 2018, 05:19:37 pm »
I also looked at the itinerary across Zambia, where distance between fuel stations might be a problem, through the Great East Road.

I investigated further Mozambique. Outside of the north East, which was considered dangerous (some “crazy” people had beheaded 10 people in the northern coastal region few weeks earlier), the country was considered ok.

I read the travel advice from the US government website, which confirmed this. 
The on going sort of civil war between the 2 warring factions in Mozambique had stopped following a truce the year before.  So, with the exception of a small region, Mozambique could be safe to cross. I was keeping a close eye on Mozambique news, as we would need to make a decision about our itinerary across Mozambique and / or Zimbabwe soon enough.

Day 41 – Namibia, Katima Mulilo– 330kms – Sunday 8th July

It was time to leave Shametu lodge. The main building was like a Harry Potter movie with its 3 large owls living inside, nesting on the beams.

At night, the mum would go hunting while the 2 young ones would constantly screech, asking for food, while looking at us below, turning their heard in funny ways, as only owls can do.

Unfortunately we do not carry the sort of cameras that could take long shots in the dark. They were very cute.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #158 on: November 13, 2018, 05:22:10 pm »
We left early. The road across the Caprivi Strip was long, straight and boring. We did not see any wildlife, despite crossing a national park with lots of elephants, lions and all that. The vegetation was kind of semi tropical with lots of bushes, trees and tall grass, so it would be hard to spot anything.

Still, when we stopped half way, in the middle of nowhere, for a quick pee, I put Alistair on lions watch!

I was told there were many lions and elephants there, so don’t laugh!

The ride was tiring as we had constant headwind.

Eventually, we arrived at Katima Mulilo and found the guesthouse we had selected online. We even had a booking!

We were the only guests. Although the next day for breakfast, there were two men there, who sounded like they spoke Russian or some Slavic language.

The guesthouse owner spoke with us of our plan to cross into Zambia. He warned us that the road, on the Zambian side, was in very a bad state and suggested to ride south and go via Botswana to Livingstone. In term of distance, it would be about the same, but we were not keen on crossing two borders on the same day and deal with all the taxes, fees and other stuff to pay twice and in two other currencies.

Eventually, after looking at the map we decided to stick to our initial plan.
We had dinner in the guesthouse. It was a set menu, beef and lots of rice, beans and some thick carrot soup that was to be used as sauce for the rice (I think?).

Then we went to our chalet. The guesthouse had several little chalets, small but nice. They even had functioning WiFi! Yay!

As usual I felt a bit nervous about the border crossing, not knowing what to expect!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #159 on: November 13, 2018, 05:24:29 pm »

I was sad to leave Namibia. We spent 6 weeks exploring a little of this vast and very lightly populated country. There was so much more to discover.

Kaokoland, in the North West is the most remote and wildest part of Namibia. We took the decision not to go there on our own. Without satellite phone, in parts where you could be alone and not see anyone for days or weeks, we felt it was too remote and risky to get there.

The main reason was really to do with the wildlife. We have been to very remote parts, in Mongolia for example, Bolivia or Russia. But even far away from everywhere, there was often the odd person coming out of nowhere, on a horseback, truck or walking, and most importantly, there were no risks of bumping into angry elephants or hungry lions and hyenas!

It is easy to travel on a motorbike across the world, even when being as clueless and carefree as we are. I hope all my Ride Reports demonstrate that! However, facing big wild animals was a step too far for us. So we chickened out.  ::)

Kaokoland is a part of Namibia I would like to explore; probably with a guide or with a sturdy 4x4 and lots of water, food and a roof tent!

Namibia is an absolutely stunning and friendly country that totally bowled me over. I will have to go back.